Monday, April 17, 2006

Thank God the Censors Are Still On The Job

Censorship is one of those topics that really gets me going. I did a paper on censorship in public libraries for a class, and had a load of fun doing the interviews. But I also got plenty steamed up. Like when the director of the Alabaster, AL public library told me about the hullabaloo surrounding their copy of Howard Stern's Private Parts. They had many people request that they purchase the book, so they did. And for a long time, it was continuously checked out. The hold list was incredible. The complaints started the day the book was actually placed on the shelf, and the rest of the public got a look at it. Even though members of the community had requested it, other members felt that their opinion was more important, so they started a very public case against the book. In the end, the library "won," in large part because of the overwhelming support of their Board of Directors.

But what happens when a Board doesn't support the library's mission? There's a case in California, where the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of the county has ordered that the book Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics be removed from the entire system (13 copies in all). This is a book on the history of the Manga/Anime craze in Japan, not an actual comic book. There's plenty of controversy around these comic books - some of them are written for adults, and contain some pretty graphic pictures. But this isn't a comic book, it's a book about comic books. This article quotes the Chairman: "
That book is absolutely inappropriate for a public library". Excuse me? "absolutely inappropriate"? For a public library?  I don't think there's any book that could be  unequivocally labeled that way. Every library serves a different community - and collections should generally reflect that - and no two communities are the same. But to say that there's something that doesn't belong, period, is just wrong.  If San Bernadino County didn't have anyone interested in Manga, then they shouldn't spend money on books about it. But they obviously do, if people are checking the books out. Are these people less entitled to read books of their choosing simply because a few other people don't like the topic or the pictures?

And don't get me started on the woman who started the whole mess when her 16 year old son checked out the book.  If she wants to police what her son reads, that's her right as a parent. But that doesn't mean that no one else should be able to read it too. She should be glad that her son was reading something informative! Hell, in today's world, she should be glad her son was reading.

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